By Cheri Fuller
A research study released in a recent issue of Pediatrics showed that every hour preschoolers watch television each day increases their chances, by about 10%--of developing attention deficit problems. It suggested that TV may overstimulate and permanently rewire the developing brain. The findings confirms previous research showing that TV can shorten attention spans and supported the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that kids under age two not watch television. Other studies showed TV watching in young children to be connected with obesity and aggressiveness.
This is a wake-up call for moms! Let me encourage you, don't let your kids waste this window of opportunity in front of the TV. The first five years are the most critical time of intellectual development. During this time, the foundation is being laid for all later skills: reading, writing, reasoning, math and communication. Most young kids spend three times more hours in front of a screen either watching cartoons, playing video games or on the computer than they spend reading.
It may sound impossible to cut out the TV and other "screen" activities for young children since they're often used as a "babysitter" to keep them occupied while we get our tasks done. But there are lots of activities our kids can do instead:
Make an Amazing Art Box accessible to your kids. In a plastic tote, put crayons, paper, materials for collages, a gluestick, play dough, stickers, etc. Once a day, encourage your child to get out the art box and make something. (Did you know the best readers and writers of today were "pencil-and-paper kids" who spents lots of time in the preschool years scribbling and drawing at home?)
Provide opportunities for outdoor and indoor play. Kids need large-muscle exercisers and they can be simple, inexpensive and fun, like a Nerf basketball and hoop which fits on a door and gives them an outlet for their energy on rainy days. Also try a rebounder (a small indoor trampoline you can get at a garage sale for a little money), beanbags, balls of all sizes, playground equipment for climbing, swinging and playing outside. Children need at least an hour or more of active play every day besides what they do in school or Mother's Day Out.
Cooking with kids. Cooking and helping in the kitchen gives preschoolers chances to learn math and weight-volume concepts, even if it's helping mom make a simple recipe. You read the recipe and your child measures, stirs and licks the bowl.
Reading aloud. Make the local public library your home away from home. Get new books every two weeks. Put them in a basket or shelf where your child has access to them. Read aloud every day, and you'll be enriching your child's language and imagination skills. Let them listen to books on tape (while looking at the book) if you're busy with a task.
Take a color walk. Even a simple walk around the block can be a learning adventure. Take a color walk this week. As you walk to the park, encourage your child to name all the red things she sees, and the next day all the yellow things. Enjoy this fleeting time of childhood, because every day with our kids is a gift!
Adapted from School Starts at Home, part of the new School Saavy Kids series for parents (NavPress).
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